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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 77 – John 18:26
Peter’s failure – corporate

 

“One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again, [for the third time], Peter denied it, and at that moment a cock began to crow.”


There are two aspects to the effect of Peter’s denials of Christ: one which would have an effect on the whole early church, which we will think about here; and that which was part of his personal life experience, which we leave for next week.

It really is extra-ordinary that all four Gospel-writers tell the story of how Peter denied Christ in full detail. By the time the gospels were being written Peter had been the leading apostle, the Chief Executive, the Managing Director of the church through its early years. In our day of spin doctors and careful manipulation of the news things would have been done very differently. Perhaps someone writing a negative biography, picking on all a fellow’s weak points, might have highlighted this episode, but surely the Gospel-writers would not come into that category.

By the time that these gospels were written down he was dead, martyred in Rome, but that was surely all the more reason why one might expect them to have suppressed a story so damaging to his reputation. There would be no dishonesty involved in not mentioning what happened. Why, then, did they think it so important to tell this particular story in full? They must have had distinct, positive reasons for doing so.

They were teaching us, and the church down through the ages, that leaders are never perfect. We may not know what their weaknesses are or have been, but we may be sure they are there hidden somewhere ‘under the carpet’. And then, secondarily, they are teaching us – at least Luke was when he said Peter ‘wept bitterly’ – that such failures should be repented of as quickly and as totally as possible.

It is scarcely possible to be a Christian for long without having to face up to the consequences of this teaching. Yes, we have all failed. We all need to seek forgiveness by deep repentance of what we have done. But we can all expect to continue to live a rich and fruitful Christian life as did Peter.

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